National 'Drive It Day'

Drive It Day - 3rd Sunday in April

Drive It Day History

Cars V HorsesThe automobile has been around since the 1890s and is still a contentious issue in some areas to this day. It was illegal to drive one without a man in front carrying a red flag until 1896. In the year 1900 in London alone, there were more than 300,000 horses hauling everything from private carriages and cabs to buses, trams and delivery carts so obviously there was daily conflict between horses and the very noisy automobiles which were at that time, considered to be only very rich gentlemen’s toys.

Fortunately, a small group of upper crust like-minded Auto mobilists had formed a club in Grosvenor Square known as The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, later to be decreed “The Royal Automobile Club” by King Edward V11 in 1907. After reading a correspondent’s account in “The Times” newspaper of how he was overtaken by a speeding automobile and the driver did not slacken his pace, “…my only consolation was I brought the lash of my whip with all the force at my disposal across the shoulders of the driver and the man sitting beside him as he swept past”.

As events like this were being reported so often, the members of the Automobile club realised that it was time to show the public that the horseless carriage was the future and to prove the viability of this invention, organised a 1,000-mile trial throughout Britain stopping at major cities' en route from London via Bristol up the west to Edinburgh and return down on the east.

It was planned to start on the 23rd April 1900 with 83 entries, of whom 65 actually started; by the time they arrived in Edinburgh, 51 were still running and amazingly 35 vehicles made it back to London on the 12th May.

Speed limits at that time were 12mph on country roads and 8mph in towns

Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent, had the dubious honour of being the first person in Great Britain to be successfully charged with speeding on 28 January 1896. Travelling at approximately 8mph, he had exceeded the 2mph speed limit for towns and was fined one shilling plus costs.

He had been caught by a policeman who had given chase on a bicycle!

NECWPA and MG Northumbria run a 'Drive It Day' event annually with a 11am start from Linskill Centre, Linskill Terrace, North Shields NE30 2AY.

Classic and Historic Vehicle Clubs commemorate this date every year to raise awareness and support amongst the public for the historic vehicle movement and transport heritage on UK roads.